We were sitting outdoors on a glorious day, enjoying the garden patio at a local restaurant. There were four of us at the picnic table: Henry (my seven year old grandson), his little sister Caroline (she’ll be 3 in August), and their daddy Mike.
Henry and I were seated on the same side together. It was a cozy table.
We’d all had fun together the night before and our German Shepherd, Shadow, loved every moment of it.
So I looked at my grandson and asked “Henry, how’d you sleep last night?”
“Good,” he said, while eating his French fries.
I smiled and asked “You know who else slept really well last night?”
“Who?” (I knew he expected me to tell him that I slept really well last night)
“Shadow”, I said. “She slept so hard she was in doggy heaven!”
He did a head swivel to look at me… and blurted out “Shadow’s dead?!?”
Startled, I said “No, no! I didn’t mean literally, Henry. I meant figuratively. Do you know the difference?”
“Not really,” he replied.
So I explained it to him…that when used figuratively, it’s simply an expression to conjure up the image of Shadow sleeping so very hard, she appeared to be dead…but truly she was just sleeping very soundly from having so much fun the night before with him and Caroline.
Seemingly satisfied, he went back to his French fries. After a moment he looked over at me. And what he blurted out next was about as unexpected as it gets.
“Grammy, you look like a hound dog!”
He’s now touching my jaw, where my aging face has clearly begun to slip southward. So from the side, sagging skin below my jawbone is becoming more and more evident. Truth be told, I’ve often wished I could simply staple it all back up where it belongs. But if I could do that, I’d also have to staple up my eyelids, which are also slowly distancing themselves from my eyebrows. I tell myself that I’ve aged faster than those whose lives are still blessed with good health. But that sagging face is what stares back at me every time I look in the mirror. Who IS that? Ugh. And so its no big surprise that Henry would take notice as well.
Henry’s comment didn’t even sting…it actually made me chuckle. I glanced over at Mike, who was distracted with Caroline and clearly hadn’t heard this somewhat uncouth assessment coming forth from his son. Which was a good thing, because it gave me a chance to reply without any input from the peanut gallery.
“Henry…that’s called aging! It happens to all of us as we grow older. It’ll happen to you too! Shall we see what you’ll look like when you get to be my age?” Before he could reply, I held his face gently between my hands…he grinned to laugh, and I said there was no laughing allowed…I was going to see how his skin would sag when he aged up. Immediately he made a sober face instead.
I gently pulled down on his cheeks.
“Yup! Haha!! You’re going to look like a hound dog too! Isn’t it great, Henry?! You’ll look just like me someday!” He belly laughed with a twinkle in his eye.
Then the conversation took an even more interesting turn.
”Grammy, you’re going to die before me. Probably before I am all grown up.”
So, without missing a beat I told him life is like a conveyor belt. He’s at the end where there is still a whole lot of belt in front of him to travel. I’m near the other end where the conveyor belt rolls off the platform. It’s called the cycle of life.
“Grammy,” he says, “I’ll sob for hours and days when you die.” I had no words for him there…just a big Grammy hug.
Mike missed most of this (I’m pretty sure anyhow), but turns out the two ladies sitting behind us and in close proximity had clearly been eaves dropping. When we got up to leave…one had twisted around so now she AND her friend could see me as we were exiting. Their expressions were hard to read, but if I had to come up with a word, it might be ‘amused’. Or maybe it was ‘appalled’?
I simply grinned at them and said “It’s like a scene from that Art Linkletter show, ‘Kids Say the Darnedest Things!”
They laughed. I laughed.
Ah, kids…their honesty is pure gold.